A new supported housing scheme which aims to maintain the independence of people with dementia has been officially opened in Belfast.
The £5M Hemsworth Court development, on the Shankill Road, was officially opened by the Social Development Minister, Mervyn Storey MLA, and the Health Minister, Jim Wells MLA.
The award winning scheme provides 35 one and two bedroom self contained apartments along with a cinema, café, gym and other facilities which allow those who live there to have a full, independent and active life. The facility has also been designed to allow a partner or carer to live with the tenant in their home which means that couples can live together as a family unit.
The Belfast Health and Social Care Trust also provides 24 hour support and a range of assistive technologies are available to ensure tenant safety within each apartment.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Minister Storey said: “Being able to maintain independence is of fundamental importance for people with dementia and this type of supported housing, with its high quality accommodation, facilities and support, is an excellent way to do that. Everything at Hemsworth Court has clearly been designed, as it should be, with the needs of the residents uppermost in everyone’s minds.
“It is therefore no surprise that the scheme is already award winning. I want to thank all those involved in delivering this impressive scheme. It is humbling to see what a difference the right kind of housing can make to people’s lives. I wish all the tenants well in their new home.”
Health Minister, Jim Wells said: “Enabling people to live well with dementia is one of the greatest challenges that we face in health and social care at present and into the future. It is recognised that we need to work together to improve the understanding of dementia in wider society, and reduce stigma and isolation.
“The Hemsworth Court scheme is a great example of what can be achieved for people with dementia and their carers to support them to live as part of the community for as long as possible. The facilities here are state of the art and will provide a safe and secure environment for people with dementia.”
Liz Cuddy, Chair of Helm Housing said: “Cross agency and departmental co-operation will become more important in the future as we work to meet the twin challenges of an ageing population and increasing demands for social housing. The success of Hemsworth Court, a joint initiative between Helm Housing and the Belfast Trust, is thanks to the vision of colleagues in both organisations and they are to be congratulated today for their excellent work. Its location in one of Northern Ireland’s only dementia-friendly areas and in one of the Department for Social Development’s regeneration zones means Hemsworth will play an active and integrated role in the local neighbourhood in the future.”
To date Hemsworth Court has had success on two fronts; in 2014 it was awarded the highest Gold Award from the Dementia Services Development Centre in recognition of its attention to detail with regards to its dementia friendly layout and features; and in February 2015 it also collected the NI Housing Council’s Jim Speers Special Award for supported housing developed with the needs of the end users to the forefront. Cited as a particular achievement was the difference and improvement in the quality of life and living environment for residents.